Breastfeeding is the most natural and beneficial way to feed your baby. For many mothers, it can provide a special bonding experience between mother and baby. Unfortunately, some nursing mothers can experience a sudden drop in milk supply which can make it difficult to keep up with their baby’s needs. It is important for any mother experiencing this issue to understand the possible causes and available solutions.
Sudden drops have been attributed to various sources including hormonal changes, insufficient nutrition or fluids, inadequate suckling techniques from the baby, emotional or physical stress experienced by the mother, and lifestyle changes due to the start of weaning or the introduction of formula. Whatever the cause may be, it’s important for a breastfeeding mother to take care of her health first so she can optimize her ability to provide quality nutrition for her child.
This article will discuss some common causes of sudden drops in milk supply while breastfeeding and go over possible solutions that are available for mothers facing this issue so they can continue nursing their babies with confidence.
Common Causes of Sudden Drop in Milk Supply
While breastfeeding, mothers may experience sudden drops in their milk supply. This can be an alarming experience and can make it difficult to satisfy a baby’s needs. It is important to understand the potential causes of this issue as well as potential solutions.
Let’s take a look at some common causes behind sudden drops in milk supply while breastfeeding.
1. Not breastfeeding often enough
Exclusively pumping or reducing the frequency of feedings can cause your body to produce less milk. When the breasts are not stimulated and emptied regularly, the body will respond by reducing the production of breast milk.
It’s important to remember that during these times, breastfeeding should be frequent and on-demand in order to prevent or reverse a sudden drop in supply. Breastfeeding every two hours throughout the day (including overnight) provides consistent stimulation of your breasts and helps maintain adequate milk production.
Ideally for exclusively breastfeeding mothers, it is recommended to nurse 8-12 times per 24-hour period, with babies being allowed to nurse as long as he or she wishes on each side when nursing multiple times within two hours. If mothers are supplementing with formula feeds, then they should be combined with frequent breastfeeding sessions aimed at emptying the breastmilk reservoirs and maintaining adequate supply.
It is a supply-and-demand system – chances are if your baby isn’t feeding frequently enough your body isn’t receiving enough signals to stimulate proper milk production. Additionally, regular pumping between breastfeeding sessions may also help maintain an adequate supply while still allowing baby time on the breast while minimizing any potential stress-related issues associated with reduced frequency due to working conditions, etc.
2. Stress and fatigue
When a mother experiences high levels of stress it can affect her milk supply. This can be due to both mental and physical causes, such as burnout from juggling multiple responsibilities. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, can also act on prolactin receptors in the brain to suppress lactation.
Fatigue is one of the most common problems faced by new mothers and it also has an impact on a mother’s milk supply. Fatigue causes an increase in cortisol levels which suppresses lactation hormones. It is important for nursing mothers to rest adequately or else their bodies will not have enough energy for lactation.
It’s important for nursing mothers to take some time for mental rest and relaxation in order to reduce stress levels and get adequate rest. Activities like yoga, meditation, taking a relaxing bath, or listening to music can all help with this. Exercise is also known to be beneficial in alleviating stress and boosting energy levels so it could help a mother sustain her milk supply as well as make her feel better physically and mentally.
3. Changes in routine
Changes in a mother’s routine, such as returning to work, can significantly affect her milk production. This is due to the fact that the body responds to hormones and demands. A baby’s frequency of breastfeeding will naturally drop off as they reach six months and further decrease by the end of one year. This means that mothers will find their breasts emptying less often, but this is completely normal and should not be cause for concern.
Other changes in routine such as going on vacation or switching to another sleep schedule can also have an effect on it due to disruptions in regular feeding times and hormonal rhythms. It may take some time for the body and baby to become adjusted after any interruption in a normal feeding routine.
Other possible causes include stress, dehydration, certain medications, smoking or alcohol consumption, and depression. If you are experiencing a sudden decrease or other symptoms of low supply try lowering your stress levels where possible; stay well hydrated; consult with your doctor about any medications that may interfere with lactation; avoid smoking or consuming alcohol while breastfeeding; and seek professional help if symptoms of depression arise.
4. Hormonal changes
Hormonal changes play a big role in regulating the release of breast milk supply. When hormones are out of balance, significant changes may occur in the amount, texture, and/or color of breast milk. This can manifest as a sudden drop in milk production and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as cramping, tenderness, or pain in the breasts.
It is important to note that hormonal issues alone are not the only cause for a sudden decrease in milk supply. Other underlying issues such as an infection, medication side effects, or health conditions can also be responsible for a decrease in milk supply. It is best to consult with an appropriate healthcare provider to determine if these conditions might be present and to rule out any potential causes.
Hormonal changes often occur when you change medications (including those commonly taken during pregnancy), undergo psychological or emotional stress, or start another new lifestyle habit such as smoking cigarettes or consuming excess caffeine, alcohol, or drugs. Additionally, severe dieting (or undereating) can impact milk production by reducing important nutrients needed for milk production.
Medications can have an effect on milk production. Maternal drugs like cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamines can interfere with milk production and its quality. If a woman is taking medications for other conditions—such as thyroid disorders, migraine headaches, depression, and anxiety—it may affect supply. The common allergy medication Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is also known to decrease milk supply in some women when taken in large doses for long periods of time.
Other over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as cough syrups containing dextromethorphan have also been known to reduce milk production if used too frequently or in high doses. Naproxen and ibuprofen can also inhibit milk production when taken on a regular basis or at higher doses, although their effect is not as pronounced at lower levels. In addition, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) should be avoided while breastfeeding; they pass into breast milk and can cause stomach upset in infants or nursing mothers taking long-term treatment with these drugs.
Some herbal remedies (like mints) contain ingredients that are stimulants similar to caffeine, which may reduce supply if used in large amounts on a daily basis. It is always best to consult your physician and discuss possible alternatives whenever the need for medications arises.
Breastfeeding is a natural and wonderful way to feed your baby and has many benefits, but it is not without challenges. One of the problems many breastfeeding mothers can encounter is a sudden drop in milk supply.
Fortunately, there are solutions to this situation, including lifestyle changes and lactation supplements.
Let’s examine the potential solutions that can help restore a breastfeeding mother’s milk supply.
1. Increase breastfeeding frequency
One way to increase milk supply is to make sure that your baby is breastfeeding more often. Closely following your baby’s natural feeding cues, can prevent long breaks between feedings and can help to stimulate the breasts for milk production. Here are other ways you can increase the frequency of your breastfeeding sessions:
- Offer both sides at each feeding session: offering both breasts at each feeding session, it helps to ensure that your baby gets both hindmilk and foremilk which in turn stimulates their production.
- Let baby focus on one side until he/she is satiated: This will also help them get enough of the hindmilk which is important for maintaining an adequate milk supply as it contains more fat and calories than foremilk.
- Offer skin-to-skin contact: skin-to-skin contact between mothers and their babies can help increase the frequency of feeding sessions by providing a calming environment that encourages frequent suckling.
- Reduce time away from the baby during feedings: when you are nursing, try to focus on being present with your baby instead of being distracted by things like checking emails or using social media. Avoid taking phone calls or multitasking during feedings.
- Pump after feeds: pumping after feeds can help stimulate increased milk production and make sure that excess milk made during a feed is emptied from the breast which signals for hormone release for further stimulation for milk production.
2. Take steps to reduce stress
It is important to find ways to reduce overall stress while breastfeeding. Breasts are not separate from the rest of the body—they are connected, and stress in other areas of life can take away from milk production. Therefore, taking steps to reduce stress for long-term support in milk production can be helpful.
There are many different approaches to reducing stress including mindfulness, gentle movement and exercise, and talking therapy or counseling. It is a good idea to find activities that help you relax and release tension from the body since these behaviors can be calming both physically and emotionally for new mothers. Additionally, getting adequate sleep, staying hydrated, and eating nourishing meals can all aid in decreasing overall stress levels.
Having a supportive person within your network such as a partner, parent or friend can also aid in reducing feelings of overwhelm because they can provide emotional support throughout this time. Finally, turning off notifications on devices or limiting time spent on media outlets can even help lower added pressures associated with electronic communication while trying to create the space needed for self-care.
3. Establish a regular breastfeeding routine
Establishing a regular breastfeeding routine and setting aside some dedicated time for nursing can help encourage milk production. It is recommended to breastfeed your baby at least 8-12 times per day, including the night. Try setting up a feeding schedule and feeding rhythm that best suits your family’s needs.
For example, create an hourly plan with the number of feeds, nursing duration, and rest times in between each feed. The more frequently you nurse your baby, the higher the likelihood that the milk supply will increase. Additionally, once you have established your routine, try not to deviate from it too much as this can disrupt the milk supply.
It is also important to ensure that your baby is latching effectively before each feed and positioning yourself comfortably so that you can relax during nursing sessions, as anxiety or stress can affect milk supply. Additionally, consider using relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing or guided imagery during breastfeeding sessions which may help improve milk production capacity by promoting feelings of calmness and reducing stress levels.
4. Consider herbal supplements
Herbal supplements are an alternative way to boost lactation naturally. Many mothers have found that herbal supplements can be effective in increasing breast milk production. Supplements that may help increase the amount of breastmilk a mother produces include fennel, moringa, garlic, anise seed, ginger root, and alfalfa. These herbs are known to stimulate milk production and can be purchased in capsule form from health food stores or online retailers.
Additionally, organic alfalfa tea is also available for purchase and can help increase breastmilk production when consumed twice a day for two weeks.
Consult with a licensed healthcare provider before taking any herbal supplement or ingesting any tea for medical advice.
5. Talk to your doctor
Talking to your doctor can be beneficial in determining the underlying causes of a sudden decrease in milk supply while breastfeeding. Your doctor may be able to help you identify potential issues and explore potential remedies.
For instance, they may suggest dietary changes such as increasing fiber intake or suggesting lactogenic foods that can improve milk production. The doctor may also recommend supplements or medication that will help with latching issues and boost milk production.
Your physician can also provide general tips on how to better manage your breastfeeding journey if needed.
How can stress affect milk production?
Stress can lead to the release of hormones that can interfere with it, causing a sudden drop in supply.
Can certain medications affect milk production?
Yes, some medications such as decongestants and hormonal birth control can interfere with it and cause a sudden drop.
What are the solutions for a sudden drop in milk supply caused by hormonal changes?
For hormonal changes, it is essential to continue to breastfeed frequently and efficiently to stimulate production. You may also consider consulting a lactation consultant or your healthcare provider for additional support.
What are the solutions for a sudden drop in milk supply caused by an ineffective latch?
To improve the latch, you can try different breastfeeding positions or use a breastfeeding aid such as a nipple shield. It may also be helpful to consult a lactation consultant.
What can be done to increase production when infrequent feedings are the cause of a sudden drop in milk supply?
To increase it, try to breastfeed more frequently and for longer periods. You can also try breast compression and massage to encourage flow.
How can stress-related sudden drops in milk supply be addressed?
Managing stress through relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or taking a warm bath can help reduce the effects of stress on it. Seeking support from family and friends or consulting with a therapist can also be beneficial.
Can pumping help increase milk production?
Pumping can help increase it by stimulating flow and signaling to your body that more milk is needed. Pumping can also help maintain production of it when your baby is not breastfeeding, such as when returning to work.
How long does it take to increase milk production after a sudden drop?
The time it takes to increase it after a sudden drop varies for each mother and depends on the cause of the drop. In general, consistent and frequent breastfeeding or pumping, along with addressing any underlying issues, can help increase it within a few days to a few weeks.
When should a mother seek medical help for a sudden drop in milk supply?
A mother should seek medical help if her baby is not gaining weight or is showing signs of dehydration, if she is experiencing severe pain or discomfort during breastfeeding, or if she is concerned about it despite efforts to increase it.
In conclusion, this can be caused by any number of reasons, from hormones to medical problems. However, it can often be addressed and solved with the proper support and guidance.
It is important for breastfeeding mothers to talk to their doctors or midwives if they experience a decrease in their milk supply. A combination of measures such as increasing hydration, adjusting diet, expressing breastmilk more frequently, reducing stress, and possibly changing medications may help to rectify the situation.
For some women, it may take longer for their milk supply to return to normal than others; but with the correct help and research from health providers and support from family and friends, this goal can be achieved.